Texas Neighbors Spring 2017 : Page 26
Wilds Pigs Plague the Lone Star State
Devastating destruction. A farmer’s livelihood, income and future could all be uprooted in the middle of the night.
It’s a battle. And farmers and ranchers are losing ground to wild pigs. Fast.
About half of the U.S. wild pig population resides in the Lone Star State with the highest numbers in East, South and Central Texas.
That poses a huge economic risk for landowners in both rural and urban areas.
“There are about 1.5 million wild pigs in Texas,” Gene Richardson, Texas Farm Bureau director of Commodity and Regulatory Activities, said. “The increased population and distribution all over the state is partially due to improved habitat and disease eradication.”
In the Lone Star State, limited natural predators and a high reproduction system also add to the increased population, Richardson said.
Wild pigs are known for uprooting crops and trampling pasture land, along with entire city parks and landscapes. Their continued movements also pose high risk when traveling on highways or country roads.
They destroy forestry plantings and can damage trees by rubbing against them, leaving very few safe spots from wild pig destruction.
“Feral hogs have managed to survive, adapt and increase their numbers despite population eradication attempts,” Richardson said.
Feral hog task forces have been founded to help lower the population of these wild beasts.
Some counties’ efforts and success have eradicated around 10,000 of the wild pig population, a model and sign of hope for other counties fighting the nearly 20-year-old wild hog battle.
The damage to farm and ranch land and equipment is growing at an alarming rate, especially as wild pigs usually have two litters each year. And those litters can have five to six piglets each time.
“Wild pigs could possibly be the most prolific large mammal on the face of the earth. Like native wildflowers or cattle, wild hogs are unfortunately rooted in the Texas lifestyle,” Richardson said. “They are prevalent in causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage and are a huge issue each year.”
Dr. Billy Higginbotham, wildlife specialist with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, said there are four legal ways to address wild pigs in Texas—trapping, snaring, shooting and catch dogs.
But farmers and ranchers need another tool to help fight the increasing population.
Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller proposed the use of “Kaput Feral Hog Lure,” a warfarin-based hog lure and the first toxicant to be listed specifically for management of wild pig populations, through a rule change.
The rule has currently been enjoined by State District Judge Jan Soifer.
With an estimated $52 million in damage each year from wild pigs, Texas farmers and ranchers are on the hunt for a solution.